I am looking to challenge the standard notion of the relationship between our beliefs and our reasons.
It is generally accepted that all beliefs have a reason behind them. When someone says they believe something, they usually can immediately provide some reason for their belief.
It would seem to me an almost universal understanding that the reason is the causal force behind a belief: people say "I believe because of this reason". This can be informally reworded: "I observed this (or some other manner in which we gain knowledge), from which I derived this belief."
This view of the matter seems far to blunt at best, completely backwards at worst. Unfortunately, my own view of it is hardly fleshed out, and so I wish to play the role of devil's advocate.
If you accept this common notion, defend it, advocate it, convince me. If you don't accept this notion, please clear my thinking and enlighten me.
People often believe things first and find reasons to support their beliefs after the fact. We are very good at rationalizing things to ourselves.
I suspect this is in large part the combination of two hardwired survival traits. 1) Being able to decide things quickly, even the wrong decision, is often a valuable trait... think prehistoric man fleeing after hearing what may or may not be a saber-toothed tiger. Even if he is wrong this particular time, making that decision quickly every time will tend to help him survive. 2) The human mind is very good at filling in gaps... think of the the classic illusion where there are three pacman shaped pieces, two below and one at the top, turned with the open mouths facing inward so that it looks like the missing parts of the circles form an invisible triangle File:Kanizsa triangle.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The human mind takes these three pacman pieces and tries to make a consistent picture of them.
So the human mind jumps to conclusions quickly and to fill in the gaps and make everything consistent, it comes up with reasons to support it's conclusions. I suspect that there are psychology studies on this subject if you are interested.
The fact that reasons are sometimes rationalization does not show that the reasons are not good reasons, and prove what they are supposed to prove. Suppose I believe in God because I was brought up to believe in God, so I did not believe in God for any reason, but I discover an argument for God which is a good argument, it is still a good argument for God even when I use it to justify my belief in God. The fact that it is a rationalization has nothing to do with the merits of the argument. And even if I do not believe in God because of the argument, that does not show that the argument is not a good argument, and does not prove that God exists. It shows only that the argument is not the motive of my belief in God. But the argument itself, as I said, stand (or falls) on its own merits.
You are right, if a reason is good, it doesn't matter that it is a rationalization. However, there is a difference between believing a reason because it is a good reason and because it is a rationalization. If you believe it because it is a good reason, then you are more likely to have a belief system that enables you to effectively deduce useful facts about your environment. If you believe it because it is a rationalization, you just lucked out this time. Next time round your rationalization might not coincidentally happen to be a good reason, and your belief system isn't particularly suited to deducing useful facts.
I accept the common notion that reasons cause beliefs.
The question, why do to believe so-and-so? is ambiguous. It may be a request for expanation, or it may be a request for justification.
Here is an example of what I mean:
"Why do you believe in God?"
1. Because I was raised in a very religious home, and we were taught to believe in God.
2. Because there is a universe, and someone must have created it, so there must be a God.
Answer 1 is an explanation of why I believe in God.
Answer 2 is a justification of my belief in God.
They can both be true.
So reason (2) may be the cause of my belief, but it need not be. It depends on the believer.
It is my general position that belief cannot be held without something at least subjectively considered evidence, and belief cannot be held in the face of contradictory evidence.
In this thread, when I say reason for belief, I mean reason in terms of justification for belief, the argument presented behind the belief.
The question I am getting at is whether we may form beliefs before we are even aware of them, and if the justification we provide for them is largely ad hoc and selective.
I guess basically I am trying to ask if there is a cause for belief before there is a justification for belief.
I guess like a lot of words, they mean different things to different people - for example some take 'belief' to mean any idea or statement about the world, and for others it is a more specific term reserved for matters of judgement, as opposed to 'facts', matters in which the evidence is supposed to be obvious.
In fact, how would it be possible for you to know something unless you also believed it?
Denial. A person might, for example, know that he has an alcohol problem yet believe otherwise.
What is, is.
Any 'reasons' are personal Perspectival fantasy (like 'cause and effect').
Because our computer brain and ego/thoughts seek and therefore 'find' 'reasons', does not mean that there are any beyond such processes.
'Universal' only in the perceived universe of the 'reasoner'.
One's imagined 'reasons' are sufficient for the one (and perhaps for the freakish few similar Perspectives). Every psychopath has her reasons. The pathological processes provides very convincing 'reasons' at times!
Nothing comes 'first'. 'Beliefs' exist in areas of the brain where 'critical thought' is diminished. They are diametrically opposed; the more of one, the less of the other. Synchronous.
I wonder what would make you think, then, that he knew he had the problem? (People do say things like, "I know that so-and-so is dead, but I don't believe it". But they don't mean it literally. They can be paraphrased as saying something like, "I know so-and-so is dead, but I cannot reconcile myself to it", or, "I keep feeling he is still around", or even, "I miss him so much").